A primer on primer paints

September 30th, 2019
A primer on primer paints

Is painting difficult for you? Do you need more coats of paint to get the job done because your walls are cracked, dirty, or stained? Do you get so frustrated when painting that all you can do is scratch your head and repeat the lyrics of a song that goes, “If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can't I paint you?” If you answered “yes” to all three questions, perhaps it’s time to use a primer.

A primer is a glue-like substance that helps paint stick to the surface of whatever you’re painting, protects the material being painted, and makes paint last longer. Wood, metal, drywall, and concrete normally require a primer before you apply the final coat of paint. This should serve as the foundation of your paint job.

Primers also seal up porous surfaces, and hide stains and old paint effectively. They help even out walls that have been repaired, enhance color, and minimize cracking and mildew growth. This is recommended if you’re switching from oil-based to latex paints and vice versa.

There are four types of primers, namely:

1. Oil-based

This has been used for decades and works with both oil and latex paints. It is usually applied to interior and exterior unfinished or raw wood to seal and cover porous surfaces better. Oil-based primers are ideal for areas that are often touched like doors, windows, and cabinets. They can also be applied to steel and other metals, and painted surfaces like walls.

Because it is a good stain killer, this type of primer stops ink, nicotine, and water stains from reappearing on new paint. It also prevents paint from peeling or cracking and can be used on cedar and redwood.

However, oil-based primers take a long time to dry. They’re difficult to remove from brushes and applicators without using harsh chemicals. What’s more, they release high amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can affect people with prolonged exposure. To avoid inhaling these deadly fumes, make sure that your workplace is well ventilated. Keep windows open or use a fan if possible.

2. Latex

Since it is water-based, latex primer is easy to clean — all you need is warm, soapy water. It works best on softwood, brick, concrete, and galvanized metals. Latex dries quickly and doesn’t crack or peel easily. It can cover small stains caused by smoke, lipstick, or crayons.

Compared to oil-based or shellac primers, this type has low or no VOCs at all. Latex is ideal for walls and ceilings since it smooths surfaces before painting and is recommended for areas that aren’t touched often.

On the downside, water-based primers will roughen raw wood and medium-density fiberboard. They will also cause cedar and redwood to bleed, causing brown discolorations that will stain surrounding areas.

3. Shellac

Shellac has been used for centuries to seal wood and other surfaces. This primer blocks stains and is ideal for interior paint jobs or areas that have been severely damaged by water or smoke. It can be used on wood, metal, plaster, plastic, and most surfaces. Shellac dries quickly, sticks to surfaces well, and can be used with both oil-based and latex paints.

The bad news is that shellac-based primers are expensive, give off harmful fumes, and can only be removed from brushes with denatured alcohol.

4. Self-priming paint

Contractors often use the primers above and two coats of paint to create a great finish. But this type of paint is a welcome shortcut that allows consumers to skip priming altogether and helps save time and money.

Once met with skepticism, self-primers have greatly improved and proven their worth through the years. In fact, some say you no longer need to prime at all. For users, this means less work, less time to paint, fewer tools to clean, and the freedom to do other things.

Still, self-priming paint is not recommended in certain situations. This is true when painting over a substrate that requires the use of a proper primer. Examples of these are hard gloss-painted surfaces, kitchen cabinets, old oil-painted woodwork, ferrous metals, and bare wood where bleeding is an issue. For these surfaces, it’s best to stick to the right primer.

Confused about primers and paints in general? Get help from the friendly experts of BLP Mobile Paints in Theodore, Alabama. Our team will suggest the best paints and primers for your painting job. Whether you need advice on residential paints, industrial paints, and coatings for marine and OEM, be sure to contact us today.